Ann Hite’s Ghost Stories
The author of Where the Souls Go shares a few of her own spooky tales in time for Halloween.
As a writer of novels, often featuring ghosts, I get a lot of stories. Readers will stop me after an event and say: “I have one for you.” They proceed to tell me a personal story about their beloved home, or a family member, or a friend that appears to them as he or she crosses over. I never tire of hearing these.
Georgia is considered one of the most haunted states in the country. I have a feeling we don’t have any more ghosts than other places, but what we do have is a love for storytelling and of course we are Southern born-and-bred folks and don’t mind letting our freak flag fly. I grew up listening to ghost stories told by my great aunts and second cousins. They would never agree that the tales of haints were made up for entertainment. They believed passionately in the events, and when I sat in the tall-ceiling front room of Great Aunt Stella’s tar-papered house, I believed too. I was never afraid — well most of the time.
I could write about Marietta, Georgia — my longtime home — and its famous ghosts at the Kennesaw House or the Lady in Black spotted making a long walk to sit with her sister’s grave, but these are stories you can Google and read on your own. No, I think I will tell you about a few of my personal experiences with spirits. Please forgive me if I scare you. That’s not my intention.
Eighteen Wheeler Tragedy
In the late spring of 1970, Mother decided to move my brother and me out of my granny’s house. We were cramped in the 800-square-foot, two-bedroom home. Needless to say, moving was a good idea in normal circumstances, but there was nothing normal about my tiny family. Mother was bipolar in a time in history that had no clue what this meant. Treatment was barbaric. Granny made it her job to be Mother’s keeper. As long as she lived in the house with Granny, management was possible. At the time, I only wanted my own room. Mother promised a two-bedroom apartment, where my brother and I would share. Almost my own room.
Mother settled on a small complex within walking distance of Granny’s. But there was only a one-bedroom apartment open. We were guaranteed the next available two-bedroom unit. I was heartsick, but we were moving no matter what. Mother needed her ‘space.’
Then something unbelievable happened. Right before we moved, Mother came in one evening and told us a two-bedroom was now available. We were all thrilled. I was 12. I never thought to question our sudden good fortune.
Fast forward two years of living in the apartment. I was almost 15. Mother’s episodes were becoming increasingly worse. I was attempting to keep this a secret from my granny so she wouldn’t worry. My friends refused to visit my home because on most days Mother would verbally attack them, accusing them of trying to scare her at night when she was alone. On many occasions, Mother told me if I didn’t stop my friends from bothering her at night, she would punish me.
One Saturday evening in the spring of 1972, I was stuck at home with Mother. I spent as much time away as possible, but that weekend my friends were all busy. The large living room window was open to the warm air. All was quiet. To reach our apartment, we had to enter an enclosed staircase through a screen door. I heard the door squeak open but thought nothing of it. We had a neighbor across the hall from where we lived. Mother sat up at attention. Her face was flushed. Before she could open her mouth, an unearthly stomping moved up the stairs. The pictures on the wall rattled. When this noise reached the door, the knob, quickly, turned back and forth several times, while some kind of pressure pushed against the cheap wood.
This went on for at least a minute. Neither Mother nor I moved. Then the stomping began again, this time down the stairs. Something in my mind clicked, and I ran to the front window that had a perfect view of anyone who entered or left the building through the screen door.
The door slammed open. I watched, ready to catch the prankster making my life miserable. No one came out. The door closed on its own. There was only silence.
Mother looked at me. “I know I’m crazy, but this is real. I’m not dreaming it up. One of your friends has it in for me.”
Later after we moved to another apartment and the next tenant — a single woman — complained of someone beating on her front door. I found out the circumstances leading up to our getting a two-bedroom apartment when none were available. Remember that detail? Mother never told us the reason, because she didn’t want my brother and me to worry. The Friday afternoon before our move, a young couple riding in their 1965 VW bug turned left in front of an eighteen wheeler barreling down the very busy highway close to the apartments. In the back, asleep in a baby car bed — way before safety became a concern — was a baby boy less than two months old. The eighteen wheeler couldn’t stop and ran over the small car. All died, even though the husband survived in the hospital for a few days. The young mother’s parents came on that Sunday and packed up the apartment and we got the two-bedroom.
I think what my mother and I heard that night was an angry mother stomping up the stairs in search of her child, of her home, her life. Some 10 years later, tenants still refused to live in the apartment more than a month or two.
Estate Sale Goodies
In early summer of 2014, I worked for a lady who owned an estate sale company. She would go into the house of a client and ready it for a two-day sale. The couple who owned this small home and all the stuff had died. Their daughter was listing the house on the market. My job was to help go through the boxed up items to see if they were worth placing in the sale.
I opened a couple of boxes found in a back bedroom. When I looked inside, I got goosebumps. These items were some young girl’s treasures from what looked like the sixties. I found a signed Beatles poster that made the estate sale lady begin to dream. There was also a pair of white-booted roller skates just like I had when I was 10. There were even red puff balls to tie on the toe of the boots. Again, a cold chill walked through me. At the bottom of one box, I found a large scrapbook, very popular among teenage girls during my childhood. This girl went to the school across the street from my grandmother’s house while I was living there. She would have been three years older than me. There was an envelope full of the girl’s school pictures, as if her parents packed them away without viewing them. A rush of recognition went over the top of my head. There was no way I knew this child.
When we took a break and sat down to eat some pizza, the estate sale lady told me the story behind the things I found. The father had never forgiven himself for this daughter’s death. When she died, he packed her things away and put them in a spare bedroom. It seems he taught her how to drive when she was 14. One night, she slipped out and took the car to pick up friends. They drove down a road still known for its curves and hills. She lost control of the car and flipped it. The young girl was the only one to die.
As the estate sale lady told this story, a whoosh of air and movement took place behind me. A couple of loud thumps and a lot of cold air. Estate sale lady didn’t seem to notice anything unusual. I kept quiet, sure that she would see me as crazy if I told her what had happened. I left not long after, taking one last look at the scrapbook. Now that the daughter’s treasures had been unearthed, the father’s guilt had been stirred up.
I was bugged the whole next day. I couldn’t get the girl off my mind. Finally, I gave in and began to research the accident. It took a few days but I found the news article. It was a tiny, two-paragraph story buried on the second page of the local paper. When I read the details, I recognized the girl. She was someone I knew. My older cousin took young cousin, her sister, and me skating every Saturday. Her good friend was the girl who had died in the accident. She was at the skating rink every Saturday with my cousin. Of course the two teenage girls saw us, the two younger girls, as complete pains in the butt. But I remembered my older cousin skating with her friend. Their heads together, probably discussing boys.
The night of the accident, my cousin was grounded for sneaking out of the house the week before. She was not allowed to go out for two months. Maybe never according to my aunt.
I now believe the spirit in the estate sale house was that of the girl. Finally, her treasures had been unpacked. And by someone who had known her. Someone who would eventually remember who she was. Maybe she was just reaching out through the thin veil that separates the living from those who have moved on.
Camping In The Great Smoky Mountains
My husband, Jack, spent two weeks camping every summer at Smokemont Campground in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It was his family’s tradition. When I met him, I began to go each summer too. In 1997, Jack and I sat around a blazing campfire. Everyone — his mom, brothers, and our kids — were in the tents asleep. It was two in the morning and finally we were alone. The fire popped and crackled.
Smokemont isn’t one of those campgrounds with luxuries such as electricity and hot showers. We were roughing it. The only light was six campsites away, where there was a bathroom with a single bulb. Also a very squeaking door that had kept me up part of the first night as people went in and out.
The day had been full. The kids tubed down the ice cold river that ran beside the campsite. We had hiked to the abandoned church and a couple of old cemeteries. And sitting in the dark, relaxing, was the perfect finish.
If you’ve never sat around a large campfire at two in the morning, you wouldn’t know that seeing past the circle of light provided by the flames is impossible. We sat there watching sparks flying. A small movement caught my attention. A woman walked between the tents into the middle of our campsite. She wore an old-fashioned long slip with intricate lacework on the shoulders and neckline. Her long dark hair was twisted in a knot on top of her head. Around her neck was a gold necklace with a tiny stone that looked like a diamond. She was barefooted.
Jack and I stared at her and she stared through us, as if she saw something else altogether. I remember thinking that she was sleepwalking. But the biggest surprise was how Jack didn’t make a sound. This was so out of character. I kept wondering if he was going to question this woman. At the very least ask her if she needed help. God, she was barefooted in a place that wasn’t the best to be without shoes. My feet would have been in sad shape.
The beautiful woman turned and walked toward the bathroom. We waited for the loud squeak of the door. It never came.
I looked at Jack. “She was barefooted.”
“She came from the river.”
“No way. The water is too fast. She was dry.”
We went to bed still thinking we saw a live person, who was possibly sleepwalking. I even thought of telling a ranger the next day.
In the morning, I jumped up and investigated the area where the woman appeared. She would have had to climb over three large boulders to get to us. The whole event was odd in ways that I couldn’t explain logically to myself.
My mother in-law, in her seventies, was cooking bacon at the camp stove. I explained to her what happened.
She gave me a smile. “You saw someone from the other side. A haint, a spirit, maybe even an angel.”
Her explanation made a crazy kind of sense. I hadn’t thought of this because the woman looked very alive, not at all like I envisioned a ghost.
Turns out Smokemont Campground has an interesting history. Before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park came into existence, there was a logging community on the very site where the campground is now. The abandoned church and cemeteries were part of this community. The Cherokee also had a presence even though most had been moved to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.
I have continued to camp at Smokemont every summer. I have yet to see the woman again. But I have experienced other strange things. On my latest trip, I hiked up to the abandoned church to take photos with a new camera. It cut off many times before I finally was able to take pictures that were filled with dots of light and even a rainbow. The camera was fine and worked well everywhere else. Hmm … Jack even heard his name whispered in his ear inside the church.
So, do you have a story? I would love to hear yours. But remember, not only am I a fiction writer, I am a Southern storyteller, who uses ghosts in her work. You never know when your story might show up in a scene.
Ann Hite is the author of three novels and a novella. Where The Souls Go is her newest book in the “Black Mountain” series and is now on sale wherever fine books are sold. Her debut novel, Ghost On Black Mountain, became a Townsend Prize Finalist and won her Georgia Author of the Year in 2012. She is an active board member of the Georgia Writers Association living in Marietta, Georgia. If you have a story for her, please contact her at [email protected]